Background: Communication gaps are common in emergency medicine.
Aim: To know how the health information was delivered to users and relatives by the health care team in the Emergency Unit of a general hospital and how the standards dictated by the patients' rights and duties law were complied with.
Material and methods: Health care workers, patients and their relatives were subjected to semi-structured interviews, and their behavior was directly observed.
Results: Important gaps that violate the right to information of users and family members were detected. There is a paucity of minimal conditions to protect the confidentiality and privacy of the information about diagnosis, treatment, or prognosis. There is no time allocated to deliver information and there are no physical spaces for such purpose.
Conclusions: The health care team is not trained in communication skills, crisis intervention and empathy. Empathy and good communication are essential for users and family members to perceive health care as satisfactory and safe and to comply with indications. The lack of protocols to inform family members about the death of a patient is the finding that most clearly accounts for the observed communication deficiencies.